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    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Harriet Miers Withdraws

    Well, it seems we don't even get to see her get grilled. I was hoping to see that. I guess she will stay somewhat of an enigma.

    It's for the best though.

    Charles Krauthammer with the Washington Post said, prophetically, five days ago that the only way out for the Miers and the Bush administration would be her withdrawl becuase of irreconcilable differences due to the inability to release documents.
    For a nominee who, unlike John Roberts, has practically no record on constitutional issues, such documentation is essential for the Senate to judge her thinking and legal acumen. But there is no way that any president would release this kind of information -- "policy documents" and "legal analysis" -- from such a close confidante. It would forever undermine the ability of any president to get unguarded advice.

    Hence the perfectly honorable way to solve the conundrum: Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives, the Senate expresses appreciation for this gracious acknowledgment of its needs and responsibilities, and the White House accepts her decision with the deepest regret and with gratitude for Miers's putting preservation of executive prerogative above personal ambition.
    But is this the REAL reason for the withdrawl? The RCP Blog says
    One interpretation of the Miers withdrawal is that the President realized (or was informed by GOP Senators) that she didn't have a chance of being confirmed. A more speculative interpretation of the timing of the withdrawal is that the President knows there are indictments coming down tomorrow and needs to have his base support consolidated. He can use news of a new appointment to deflect attention from any possible bad news from the Fitzgerald investigation.
    When I woke up the the news of the Miers withdrawl this morning, I thought first that she couldn't withstand the Senate rigor--her personal interviews were just not impressive enough. Bush knew from their feedback that she wouldn't pass, and so she resigned. However, that isn't necessarily the best way to do it. He could have let her go through the grilling, and spun an anti-senate view that would have softened up the American populace and his base for a candidate that undoubtably will get far more fire from the left than Miers.

    Obviously, something more than the excuse of white house documents must be at work. I find it far within the realm of reason that Bush knows exactly when indictments are coming. He's probably expecting Rove, the mastermind, to be indicted, and possibly V.P. Cheney as well. Miers herself could also be indicted, but at the very least, having his white house counsel whom he trusts so much by his side as his administration goes down in the flames of ineptitude will provide him solace and maybe, just maybe a way to weather the storm.

    It is frustrating to see an adminstration with so much promise do so much wrong. It is also interesting that this nomination has highlighted the power of blogs. Never before Roberts has the American public had such a powerful say in their judges. Although I agree with Politechnical Institute that
    "Whatever Miers’ shortcomings as a Supreme Court nominee, it is clear that she is an accomplished attorney and has served the public honorably. The character she exhibits now in withdrawal does her credit..."
    the competency flaws seen by the senators were first highlighted and hit upon repeatedly by bloggers. Such flaws may have gone unnoticed, or at least slipped under the radar until the Bork-like confirmation hearings, in a previous era. But today, bloggers have put an onus on the nomination of a supremely rigorous candidate for a supreme position.

    Whatever the reasons, the Bush administration is severly weakened, and has no choice but to nominate a divisive candidate. The Right won't support another Miers and the Left won't support what the Right will. Perhaps O'Connor will be adjudicating for quite some time yet. Everyone has their opinion on who the next nominee should be. Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy suggests Michael McConnell or Karen Williams. California Conservative predicts Edith Jones. Slate knocks around many women's names and the reason why the Bush administration may not choose any of them.

    The other side of the coin has this to say: (From Left Field)
    But if Bush's political success is linked to a rabid wingnut getting onto the Court, you better believe his base will fight and fight hard to mitigate any damage from the Plame indictments. That's why I see this withdrawal, politically speaking, as good in the short-term, bad in the long term. Bush looks bad now, but he'll have more people behind him now when indictments come.

    ...with low numbers and embarrassing indictments, the moderates in the Senate like McCain and Specter have even less incentive to rally around a Priscilla Owen or Janice Rodgers Brown.

    ...I forsee a Luttig or Wilkeson appointment, or someone along those lines - someone with Federalist Society bona fides, but enough experience and distance from the president to win confirmation. That won't completely please the radical right, but they have to realize Bush cannot sustain a nasty filibuster fight.
    It will be an interesting couple of months to end out the year.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    A Great Lady -- Rosa Parks

    I woke up this morning to the news that Rosa Parks, "mother of the Civil Rights movement," passed away from natural causes last night at the age of 92.

    Growing up in Houston, Texas, and my best friend being African-american, I feel my life has benefitted every day from the efforts of those during the civil rights era. Last year I wrote a paper in college where I interviewed my friend, Dennis, and his parents about their recollections of growing up during the 1950s-1970s and how the civil war/reconstruction/civil rights are remembered today. It was an immensely edifying experience.

    I can never empathize with those who grew up under state-sanctioned racism, those who had to eat out the back door of a restaurant while their neighbors went in the front, those who were denied studying at college because of the color of their skin.

    Even knowing the intimate relationships between vietnamese and americans has not given me the experiences they had. Dennis' father went to college in Nebraska, and tried hard to ask out a very pretty girl in his class. One day he finally succeeded, only to have her tell him she had turned him down so many times because her friends kept saying "You're not really going to go out with that n----- are you?" It was the only date they went on.

    Today, as I think about Rosa Parks and all the others who helped pave the way for equality in America, I give thanks. I am thankful for all those who stood up for what they knew was right although the law didn't say it. I'm thankful for those people who endured prejudice in order to succeed in life and raise a new generation outside those bonds. They are a beacon of faith to me. And I give thanks to a small woman who decided one day not to move to the back of the bus. Every day of my life is a little bit sunnier, a little less gray, because of it.

    rosa_parks_4Rosa Parks' mugshot.

    rosa_parks_bustRosa being booked.

    rosa_parksRosa Parks, an American heroine.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Noodlepie in St. Louis II

    Alright, do I have a lot of posts milling around my mind?? Yes, yes I do.

    The other place to stop at in St. Louis is Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.


    For those not yet educated in the ways of ice cream, frozen custard originated in Ohio, where some awesome soul decided to increase the amount of egg yolks in ice cream and decrease the air. What you have is a dish named "concrete," because you can turn your cup upside down and it doesn't budge.

    I got a Strawberry-banana concrete. The texture of a fruit concrete is not as thick, and that was depressing. However, the sizes are generous, the workers take orders quickly (since Ted's is almost always busy), and the flavors work great together. No stale ice cream taste or old, frozen fruit taste. Good, fresh, Vanilla/Strawberry/Banana.


    Ted Drewes is a must-eat if you are passing through St. Louis. Recently, a food magazine rated Ted's as one of the top 12 best ice cream places in the United States. It's even a Route 66 landmark.


    Noodlepie...in St. Louis

    Noodlepie is the hugely popular and very well done blog about food in Saigon, Vietnam, so I thought it only fitting to title this post in memoriam.

    While in St. Louis I ate two things of note. First, vietnamese food.


    My student host and another interviewee went out for Vietnamese food. He took me to "Pho Grand," the aptly named restaurant that serves Pho and is located on Grand ave. He swears it's his favorite Viet food in the area. Unfortunately, it's closed every Tuesday, so we had to go to the Viet restaurant down the block, "Lemongrass."


    Upon first entering, I saw the decor quite nice to cater to the mostly caucasian crowd that eats here. Nice decor and caucasians equals higher prices.


    My host got com thit nuong. The presentation was good. Taste good. It was grilled in nuoc mam, but they didn't give any extra nuoc mam in a bowl, which disappointed. We had to ask for a little chen of nuoc mam. Overall, the colors contrasted well, vegetables were fresh, and they used good leafy greens.


    I ordered the bun thit nuong cha gio. Again, you can see that the colors work well with each other. I did think they added just a little too many peanuts. The egg rolls were crispy and not oily, a definite plus. The meat had subtle flavor that didn't overpower anything. Unfortunately, they put the fish sauce in the bowl before they added everything else. So, when I added my extra nuoc mam, I had too much, since I was unaware of the puddle at the bottom of my bowl. A little mixing with special attention paid to keep most of the vermicelli out of the sauce made the dish good, until the last two or three bites. Then the sauce was overpowering.


    Ultimately, the waiter was friendly, although he didn't want to speak Vietnamese with me, and the food was far better than I expected in St. Louis. For about $5.50 a plate, this place is definitely worth eating at. Now is it better than Pho Grand?? That remains to be seen...

    Pictoral Voyage through St. Louis

    I was in St. Louis on Monday and Tuesday for medical school interviews. Before the interview, I saw the great arch of St. Louis, the gateway to the west.


    This is looking directly up from the middle of the arch's base. The little holes in the arch are windows looking out.


    This is a perspective that gives the height of the arch. It is 630 feet tall. For inference, the statue of liberty is only about 300 feet tall and Mount Rushmore is only 425 feet high.


    I had to add this in because I agree 100% with the sticker on the back window.

    Finally, I had to say "Hook'em Horns!!"


    Vietnam will not join the WTO

    Last Saturday the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper in Vietnam quoted Vietnam's ambassador to the WTO, Ngo Quang Xuan, saying Vietnam will not enter the World Trade Organization this December because of the United States. He blames this on America's absurdly "high standards."

    He says:
    Theo tôi, phía Mỹ hiểu rõ khả năng của VN và cũng hiểu rằng VN không thể đáp ứng các yêu cầu mà Mỹ mới đưa ra.
    Ambassador Xuan also says,
    Qua quá trình đàm phán, chúng tôi chia sẻ với ý kiến của nhiều người cho rằng đàm phán thương mại nói chung và WTO nói riêng không chỉ thuần túy các vấn đề thương mại mà còn bao gồm sự tổng hợp các mối quan hệ chính trị - xã hội.

    Một số ý kiến cho rằng Mỹ chưa muốn kết thúc đàm phán với VN vì nhiều lý do khác. Họ cho rằng trong bối cảnh EU, Nhật Bản… đã kết thúc đàm phán với VN, việc Mỹ tiếp tục làm khó trên bàn đàm phán là thái độ thiếu thiện chí.
    And he may be right. But so what? Is America's position on this such a surprise? Yes, America welcomed Phan Van Khai earlier this year, and certain politicians have argued for the permanent normalizing of trade relations with Vietnam, but getting into the WTO is more than just economics.

    America holds a great edge in this poker game. Currently, Vietnam realizes that it must finish bilateral talks in order to join the WTO in December. America realizes that Vietnam is still on it's human rights watch list, and has a long list of problems that need addressing. Lately, Vietnam has increased it's censorship of blogs and the internet, and done little to change religious reforms. As long as America continues to hold Vietnam to high demands, good things will come. A free and unhindered populace will help Vietnam progress far faster than is happening currently. Instead of pouting that Vietnam's problems stem from a "lack of goodwill," Vietnam must achieve American demands. The freedom of thought allowed to the industrious Vietnamese people will help Vietnam's economy more. For all the times I have heard a Vietnamese official tell me America should understand and respect Vietnam's culture, Vietnam must also understand and respect an American culture that puts individual liberties and rights paramount. Only then will it gain the full support of the United States in it's efforts to join the WTO.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Saint Louis and Atlanta

    Coincidentally, these are the two cities the Houston Astros beat to make it to the World Series. Now they play the Chicago White Sox. Maybe my visit to Chicago in November means good omens...

    ...because these are the two cities I visited this week for medical school interviews. I am currently in Atlanta. Flew in today on America west...and they made me check my carry-on because some idiots brought their trumpets and fishing poles on the plane as carry-ons. What ever happened to size restrictions?? I had to wait for 45 min to get my CARRYON at the baggage claim because of them.

    Unfortunately, I forgot my link from my digital camera to the computer so I can't upload any photos. I promise when I get back to Utah I will upload photos from both cities and give a reasonable critique of the Viet food I ate on my trip (hey it wasn't all interviewing).

    Regardless, I want to say there is a very interesting discussion at The Volokh Conspiracy on Same Sex Marriage. Maggie Gallagher, a guest-blogger, is setting up her anti-ssm position based on the legal aspects to ssm in a series of posts over the last week. She has two more days left. Check it out. I have found her arguments very interesting.

    While reading The Prince yesterday, I ran across a couple quotes cogent to Pres. Bush. He should know that,
    "The populace is by nature fickle; it is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to confirm them in that persuasion." (p.19)
    "There is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes in a state's constitution. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new ... partly from fear of their adversaries ... and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience. In consequence, whenever those who oppose the changes can do so, they attack vigorously, and the defence made by the others is only lukewarm. So both the innovator and his friends come to grief." (p.19)

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    What I want for Christmas

    is a new comments program.

    That's what I want. Blogger has an option that allows you to be emailed with any comments posted on your blog. This is great because you don't have to constantly check posts to see if people comment.

    There's also RSS feeds for people like me who love to check many sites but don't have a lot of time. The RSS or atom feeds tell me when a new post is up and I can go to the website or read it in my RSS feed reader.

    What I want is that for comments I post on other websites. I don't know if it's possible, or already done, but it would make my life great. If I comment on a post, I am more interested in it then a typical post. It also means I would be interested in comments on the post after I've commented. A program that registers posts I've commented on and alerts me when the post has been altered or another comment added would be my favorite christmas present...and something I'd probably pay for.

    Anyone out there who knows computers better than I and wants to make a few bucks, there's an idea. Give me a present.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Belgian hip hop

    I stumbled upon this belgian music video. Yeah...let's keep hip hop where it started. Maybe it's the group, I dunno, but it didn't do it for me.

    FYI: don't watch the video if you don't like listening to stuff you don't understand or you don't like hip hop.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    The Dilemma of blogging about Vietnam

    This post caused me to think again about the ramifications of blogging on personal life. Dr. Drezner blogged and it may have (in addition to other things) cost him tenure.

    What about us who blog about Vietnam?? I posted this in the comments section:
    Do we write our true feelings--that may criticize Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, etc--or do we neuter our thoughts to protect extended family and friends still living under those regimes? Blogging by definition almost screams no censorship, yet our personal relationships censor us anyway.
    In response, another "conspirator" (one who reads the Volokh Conspiracy) replied,
    There's also the option of writing anonymously to reduce the likelihood that personal relationships will require self-censorship. And blogging does not at all "scream no censorship"; people who write under their real names generally feel obliged not to write about their workplaces, about their most intimate relations, etc. Anonymous bloggers quite frequently seem to be much freer to discuss their family troubles or workplace gripes, whereas those whose blogs would be easily identified with them must be more discreet.
    He is most assuredly correct that blogging anonymously is an avenue out. And, he is very correct in reminding me that blogs do not scream no censorship. I was mistaken. I'm sure anonymous blogs do allow people to be more free in discussing "family troubles or workplace gripes."

    However, is that optimal?? I have deliberately been "less than forthcoming" on my personal biographics because I worry that the Vietnamese government could track me down and harass my extended family in Vietnam. Is it probable? I don't think so. Maybe if I was a bigger blog. Is it possible? Definitely. I've probably already told too much on this blog. Any government with a concerted interest could probably find out who I am very easily.

    However, if I was totally anonymous, to the extent that the Vietnamese government or any other could not find me, would I be able to effectively write? It seems that not only would I have to keep all biographical info off the web, but I would need to neuter all anecdotes in posts about what I do, what experience I base my views on, etc. How could I truly effectively post my views and beliefs if they were sanitized so much? And wouldn't that be what communist govenments want anyway? Sanitized views?

    This has caused deep internal reflection. And I want comments from all readers, whether you directly deal with this or not. Many views are better than none. Have I taken appropriate measures, too few, or too many? Is it a lost cause or am I concerned over nothing? Do other bloggers feel like I do and struggle with these questions??

    My views on Harriet Miers

    I've never aligned myself with the right per se but I also echo reservations with Miers. First, I posted about my feelings on picking a woman. I also have many questions with Ms. Miers.

    Does a supreme court justice need to be an expert in constitutional law?

    My thoughts say no, but with reservations. Someone without great knowledge in our constitution must have shown supreme aptitude in other areas.

    Does a justice need to be a judge before being serving on SCOTUS?

    No. Justice Rehnquist is a recent example of this. However, again this is with reservations. In my profession, doing research on stomach cancer (PhD) is far different from being a medical oncologist (MD). So I have heard advocating as a lawyer is far different from judging the law. If one of the best judges in the land does not have prior experience, so be it, but let he or she be--again--accomplished in his or her field.

    Was Harriet Miers a pick because she's a crony?

    Probably. But that's to be understood in almost every vocation. "It's who you know, not what you know" was the mantra I learned in college. That doesn't bother me so much because I'm jaded enough to expect it from the government.

    Will she be conservative?

    This is a biggie. I don't really care. But Vice president Cheney got on Rush limbaugh and made the point that we will know in 10 years. Rush replied, "why wait 10 years?" I agree. Conservative or not, why should I have to wait 10 years to understand where the direction of the court will go? I, as a constituent, want to know the direction ASAP, so I can influence my senator to vote yes/no. Leaving such an important and lifelong position ambiguous does not make me happy.

    In summary, there are too many if's to make me support Ms. Miers. Being the first woman president of the Dallas and Texas Bar Associations is a great, but it's not that great. She has no record of arguing anything before the supreme court, and a history of riding up to her position on the coattails of Pres. Bush instead of her own merit. These ifs far outweigh the few quantifiable parts of her persona we know. To me, that is an unsatisfactory pick.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    1st Anniversary

    Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary. I can honestly say it has been the best year of my life. Never have I had so much fun with my best friend, love from my lover, and support from my biggest fan. She truly is my better half.

    My wife can do many things. She is a brilliant student, trying to finish up this semester before moving on to a graduate degree while I go to medical school. She's loving and kind (and I'm sure will be a great mother when the little Triet's come along), and she's the most amazing cook. I call her "Iron Chef Vietnam!"

    We celebrated yesterday with a quiet day at home, and she made the most wonderful dinner. Here's the lineup:


    This is the table setting. She brought the placemat and napkin combo back from Vietnam this summer.


    First course was a nice spring mix salad with a soy ginger dressing.


    Second course was paprika, soy, and ginger glazed scallops with mint, lemon, and wasabi.


    Main course was a mustard and sesami oil pasta with watercress and chicken breast marinated in soy sauce, garlic, shallots, and pepper topped with a mango puree. Heavenly.


    I guess some tradition says you eat the top of your wedding cake one year later. For being frozen for one year, it was surprisingly moist. By the way, it's white cake with raspberry filling and vanilla bean ice cream (not shown).

    Finally, here's a pic of the whole setup in our humble abode.


    I'm sorry if I made anyone hungry. I just had to brag about my wife. Also, yes, we are mormon, so if you're wondering, the bottle is Meier's 100% non-alcoholic sparkling catawba.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    I've moved

    The reason for no posting over the last week has been one thing...I moved. No longer do my wife and I rent a basement! We are now renting a large, beautiful house in north Provo. I will have to upload some pics. What's the one thing I've learned from moving??

    I HATE having to remember who I need to call to change my address (bank statements, medical school applications...etc.). Ugh...

    Otherwise, a few ruminations.

    I don't consider myself a conservative, but I agree with their anger over Bush's pick. Miers? Give me a break. My support of Bush has been dropping steadily over the last month. This didn't help it.

    Winter is coming FAR too soon here. Today it's been low 40s all day long and raining. Ugh.

    BYU is holding it's 12th annualLaw & Religion Symposium. This year's topic is "Religion and the World's Legal Traditions." Three delegates from Vietnam (among 50 countries) are here. All three seem like fine men. Yesterday Nguyen Huy Khac gave a speech on the new religious freedom laws enacted in Vietnam. I must praise Vietnam for their new laws. I was over there last summer, when the laws were ratified (they were enacted in November), and it looked like this could be the beginning of guaranteeing religious freedom. And it is. Granted, Vietnam still requires things that make it nearly impossible to be a state legalized religion, but the guaranteeing of religious freedom and tolerance in obvious and unambiguous words is a good first step and should be lauded. So I do.

    I think playing a regular season NFL game in Mexico city was brilliant. Over 103 thousand fans... and the Cardinals played well (that's amazing as well). When will Mexico get it's first NFL team?? The Mexico City Aztecs?? Well, maybe in the NFL, but that wouldn't be allowed in the NCAA...

    I don't think they have enough info to convict Tom Delay, but I harbor a suspicion he's more guilty than we think...

    ...and so are many, many more congressmen.